A little window of time from one of Harley and Joker's first therapy sessions. The "turning point" where Harleen Quinzel beings to die and Harley Quinn takes over, you might say. ;) I don't own either of these two or their wonderful DC universe, but I hope you enjoy!! :D
"Your glasses aren't real."
Those sudden words made Dr. Harleen Quinzel jump. Of all the things she had imagined the Joker might say upon her arrival in the interrogation room, that had not been one of them.
"Excuse me?" she asked, putting her clipboard down slowly on the desk in front of her.
The Joker laughed.
"You heard me. Those glasses – they're cheap plastic. Made in China."
"You don't know that," Harleen replied, subconsciously straightening the eight-dollar frames that sat on the bridge of her powdered nose. How had he known? She actually had purchased them at a local boutique where broke teenagers bought cheap accessories, but they had fooled everyone else without a problem!
"Yeah, I think I do," the Joker replied, giving her a patronizing smile. "But if it makes you feel better, sure. They're real. Why not?"
"I don't like your attitude," Harleen said faintly, remembering Dr. Leland's words like a distant curse:
"They'll eat an amateur like you alive…"
"Yeah, well, you're not the first one to tell me that," the Joker admitted. "But hey – can you just do me one favor?"
"I suppose," Harleen agreed, silently putting up her guard.
"Tell me – why do you wear 'em if you don't need em?"
Harleen froze, trying to come up with an appropriate response. But all she could manage to do was wonder why he was so fascinated by her glasses. What did he care if they were useless? He wasn't the one having to constantly push them up on his nose and pretend they made things clearer instead of blurrier.
But maybe – just maybe – this could be her "in." If she shared a tiny bit of harmless personal information with her new patient, maybe he would be more inclined to open up to her.
It was worth a try.
"You're right," Harleen finally said, taking off the glasses and putting them on the desk alongside the clipboard. "They're absolutely fake – I admit it. I wear them because it helps me get a little bit of respect."
The wide smile the Joker gave her made chills run up her spine.
"Now was that so hard?" he asked, acting for all the world as though he was the one giving her therapy.
"I suppose not," Harleen agreed. "But hey – if we're sharing secrets, why don't you tell me one of yours?"
"Ah-ta-ta, we're not playing that game. Not yet. I'm not through with the glasses stuff."
Harleen fought the urge to sigh deeply.
"It's really not that big of a deal," she said. The Joker held up a finger, interrupting her.
"No, I think it is. And ya see, I want to feel like a really understand the person who's doing my head-shrinking, right? I mean, how am I gonna trust somebody I don't even know? I got questions for ya."
Harleen began a running dialogue – more specifically, a running argument – with her better judgement.
Would Dr. Leland answer his questions?
But then again, Dr. Leland hadn't gotten the Joker case. She had. And she liked to think it was because she had something that Joan didn't. Something special. If she played the game just a little while longer, she might hit the jackpot.
"Go ahead," Harleen surrendered, acting on her new philosophy without any ado. "Fire away."
The Joker laughed.
"I always liked that expression. Okey-dokey. You said you wear those glasses to get respect. Well, why do you want respect to begin with?"
Harleen paused, clearly stunned. That wasn't the kind of question you ask someone. That wasn't even the kind of question a psychologist asks someone. The desire for respect… it's a given. Wars had been fought for it time and time again, marriages ended over it on a daily basis. It wasn't something she could just choose not to want.
"Everyone wants, needs, and deserves respect," Harleen said staunchly. The Joker shook his head, rolling his eyes theatrically.
"No, no, no," he replied, his scarred lips pursed with displeasure. "I don't want you quoting your little psychology textbook at me. I want to know why you – Dr. Harleen Quinzel – want respect."
Harleen opened her mouth to protest, but Joker held up a finger to stop her.
"Don't worry, I'll give you some time to think a little. This one deserves a bit of thought."
The doctor was positively at a loss. Should she listen to what he was saying, risking losing any upper hand she'd ever had? Was playing his game worth the possibility finding an "in" and learning the tiniest bit more about this mysterious patient? Or was she going to turn out to be a stupid amateur and just end up losing it all?
There was no way of knowing without giving in.
And she had always wondered why respect seemed to matter so much. It wasn't like it was a biological need, like food or sleep, but she'd always longed for it. She even felt like she'd come close to getting it once or twice. But no. It never seemed to pan out. She'd always been admired, but never respected – and there was certainly a difference there.
That had to be it.
"I want respect because I never got it before," Harleen said quietly, mostly thinking aloud. However, she repeated herself, practically shouting from her newfound confidence. "Nobody ever gave me any respect, and I should have it! That's why I want it!"
"Now we're getting somewhere!" Joker exclaimed. "You want it 'cause you've never had it. But there are a lot of things you never had, Harley. You've probably never had a purple rhinoceros. But you're not fighting tooth and nail for one of those. Maybe they're great – you just don't want one because you don't know what you're missing out on. One would think respect would be the same way. Why is it any different?"
Under ordinary circumstances, Harley would have had to try very hard to hide her laughter at a remark as random as the one about the purple rhinoceros. However, she was not in a laughing mood anymore. The injustice of her life was becoming evident, and she was finding the answers.
"I want respect because other people get it, and they don't even have to do anything for it," she shouted, slamming a fist on the desk. "It's just given to them, even if they're stupid and have bad ideas. Bam. There ya go. But not me. I can get perfect grades, I can do martial arts well enough to kill the average man, but I still don't get any respect from anybody. I get swindled by mechanics. I get whistled at in supermarkets. People just see me and automatically they talk to me like I'm some kind of idiot. Maybe it's because I'm young? Blonde? I don't know. But I hate it!"
"But wait," her patient interrupted, "we have some stuff to consider if we're gonna blame it all on appearance. People like Dr. Leland would kill to look like you."
"They don't know what they're missing out on."
The Joker shrugged, acting as though that was probably a legitimate answer. However, he wasn't finished – and his next question would rattle Harleen more than she cared to admit.
"Have you ever considered being the person they want you to be?" he inquired calmly. "It would certainly be the path of least resistance."
"Never!" his companion exclaimed automatically, color rushing to her face. "I couldn't compromise myself like that! Especially not after all I've been through to get to where I am!"
"Why not?" the Joker demanded, seemingly oblivious to how indignant her reaction had been. "You haven't wasted that much time. Not even as much as I did, and I gave in. They said 'You're a criminal. You'll never amount to anything.' Did I fight back and prove them wrong? Of course not! I said 'Sure, sounds good to me.' If that's they want from you, why not give it to them? No skin off your back."
"But don't you feel like you gave a part of yourself away?" Harleen insisted. "Your integrity?"
"Eh, maybe, but no biggie," the Joker replied easily. "The fringe benefits of this life are too good to abandon just for the sake of something like integrity. Ya see, Harley, when you abandon your personal goals – looking smart and getting respect, in your case – life becomes a lot easier. Wouldn't it be nice to wake up in the morning and not pick a fight with the world?"
"I guess it would," Harley admitted.
"Exactly!" the Joker said. "Life becomes a cakewalk – and it only gets better! You can get rid of all the other restrictions you've put on yourself. The obligation to get people's approval and be a contributing member of society can go, too! First you don't care if people respect you, and suddenly you find that you don't even care if they so much as approve of you!"
"Your suggestion is interesting," Harleen said staunchly, clearly unwilling to give into him any further. "Kind of a mix between Machiavellianism and hedonism…"
But she still sounded unsure. The Joker could easily tell she looking at the suggestion from an entirely hypothetical standpoint, and that wouldn't do. He was serious – this was about planting an idea.
"Try it sometime," he encouraged, giving her a wide smile. "Talk in a baby voice, if you want. Wear too much make-up. See what they do."
The Joker leaned forward, baiting his last hook.
"You're the only one standing between you and things being that simple, you know."
A silence fell over the room. Dr. Quinzel leaned back so they weren't nose-to-nose, but she didn't look afraid. More… confused. A little bit shaken.
And that was exactly where she needed to be.
The Joker smiled.
"Let her take over," he said softly, "that crazy little Harlequin you've been hiding away."
It was finally too much. Harleen shook her head and got to her feet.
"We're not getting anywhere today," she said finally, putting her glasses in a case and sliding it into her briefcase along with the clipboard that held the Joker's file. "I'll be back tomorrow to see how you're doing."
The Joker merely shrugged and gave her a little salute as she left the room.
However, when the steel door slammed shut, a grin crept across his face.
"It's begun," he whispered, his tongue darting out to touch the scars each of his cheeks.